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The Yarmukian culture (Hebrew: הַתַּרְבּוּת הַיַּרְמוּכִית) was a Neolithic culture of the ancient Levant. It was the first culture in prehistoric Israel and one of the oldest in the Levant to make use of pottery. The Yarmukian derives its name from the Yarmouk River, which flows near its type site at Sha'ar HaGolan, a kibbutz at the foot of the Golan Heights.

Yarmukian culture
Yarmukian culture is located in Near East
Sha'ar HaGolan
Sha'ar HaGolan
Map showing the region of Sha'ar HaGolan, type site of the Yarmoukian culture.
Geographical rangeLevant
Dates6400–6000 BC
Type siteSha'ar HaGolan, Israel
Yarmukian pottery vessel, Sha'ar HaGolan

Sha'ar HaGolanEdit

The first Yarmukian settlement was unearthed at Megiddo during the 1930s, but was not identified as a distinct Neolithic culture at the time. At Sha'ar HaGolan, in 1949, professor Moshe Stekelis first identified the Yarmukian culture, a Pottery Neolithic culture that inhabited parts of Israel and Jordan.[1] The site, dated to ca. 6400–6000 BC (calibrated), is located in the central Jordan Valley, on the northern bank of the Yarmouk River. Its size is around 20 hectares, making it one of the largest settlements in the world at that time. Although other Yarmukian sites have been identified since, Sha'ar HaGolan is the largest, probably indicating its role as the Yarmukian center.[2]

The site was excavated by two teams from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: one led by Stekelis (1949–1952), and the other by Yosef Garfinkel (1989–90, 1996–2004). While during the earlier excavations no architecture was found, the second expedition uncovered large courtyard houses, ranging between 250 and 700 m² in area. The courtyard house makes its first appearance at Sha'ar HaGolan, giving the site a special significance in architectural history. This is an architectural concept still found among traditional Mediterranean societies. Monumental construction on this scale is unknown elsewhere during this period. The houses consist of a central courtyard surrounded by several small rooms.

The houses were separated by streets, which constitute evidence of advanced community planning. The dig uncovered a central street about 3 m wide, paved with pebbles set in mud, and a narrow winding alley 1 m wide. These are the earliest streets discovered in Israel and among the earliest streets built by man. A 4.15 m well dug to the local water table indicates a knowledge of hydraulics. Exotic objects discovered during the excavations include sea shells from the Mediterranean, polished stone vessels made of alabaster (or marble), and blades made from obsidian from Turkey. The presence of obsidian points to trade connections extending over 700 km.[2]


Mother goddess clay figurine, Sha'ar HaGolan

The greatest technological innovation of the Sha'ar HaGolan Neolithic was the manufacture of pottery. This industry, which appears here for the first time in Israel, gives this cultural stage its name of Pottery Neolithic. The pottery vessels are in a variety of shapes and sizes and were put to various domestic uses.[1]

At the site of 'Ain Ghazal, located along the banks of the Zarqa River near Amman, Jordan, the early Pottery Neolithic period is dated from 6,400 to 5,000 BC.[3]


About 300 art objects were found at Sha'ar HaGolan, making it the main center of prehistoric art in Israel and one of the most important in the world.[citation needed] One of the houses yielded approximately 70 figurines made of stone or fired clay. No other single building of the Neolithic period has yielded that many prehistoric figurines. Among the outstanding art objects from Sha'ar HaGolan are figurines in human form made of fired clay or carved on pebbles. The overwhelming majority are female images, interpreted as representing a goddess. The clay figurines are extravagant in their detail, giving them a surrealistic appearance, while the pebble figurines are minimalist and abstract in form. The members of Kibbutz Sha'ar HaGolan have built a museum that exhibits the finds from the nearby site.[2] Because of the unique artistic quality of the figurines from Sha'ar Hagolan, both the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the Louvre Museum in Paris have mounted ten-year exhibits of objects from the site. In Israel, figurines are exhibited at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Related sitesEdit

Besides the site at Sha'ar HaGolan, 20 other Yarmukian sites have been identified in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon.[2] These include:

Although the Yarmukian culture occupied limited regions of northern Israel and northern Jordan, Yarmukian pottery has been found elsewhere in the region, including the Habashan Street excavations in Tel-Aviv and as far north as Byblos, Lebanon.


Relative chronologyEdit

Europe Egypt Syria
Anatolia Khabur Sinjar Mountains
Middle Tigris Low
Iran Indus/
10000 Pre-Pottery Neolithic A
(10,500 BC)
Early Pottery
(18,000 BC)[7]
9000 Jericho
Tell Abu Hureyra
8000 Pre-Pottery Neolithic B
Tell Aswad
Göbekli Tepe
Aşıklı Höyük
Initial Neolithic
(8500–8000 BC)
7000 Egyptian Neolithic
Nabta Playa
(7500 BC)
(7000 BC)
Tell Sabi Abyad
Jarmo Ganj Dareh
Chia Jani
Ali Kosh
Mehrgarh I[6]
6500 Neolithic Europe
Pre-Pottery Neolithic C
('Ain Ghazal)
Pottery Neolithic
Tell Sabi Abyad
Pottery Neolithic
Chogha Bonut Teppe Zagheh Pottery Neolithic
(7000-5000 BC)
6000 Pottery Neolithic
Pottery Neolithic
(Sha'ar HaGolan)
Pottery Neolithic
Ubaid 0
(Tell el-'Oueili)
Pottery Neolithic
Chogha Mish
Pottery Neolithic
Sang-i Chakmak
Pottery Neolithic

Mehrgarh II

Mehrgarh III
5600 Faiyum A
Amuq A


Umm Dabaghiya
(6000-4800 BC)
Tepe Muhammad Djafar Tepe Sialk
5200 Linear Pottery culture
(5500-4500 BC)

Amuq B



Ubaid 1
(Eridu 19-15)

Ubaid 2
(Hadji Muhammed)
(Eridu 14-12)

Susiana A
Yarim Tepe
Hajji Firuz Tepe
4800 Pottery Neolithic

Amuq C
Hassuna Late

Gawra 20

Tepe Sabz
Kul Tepe Jolfa
Amuq D
Gian Hasan
Ubaid 3 Ubaid 3
Ubaid 3 Khazineh
Susiana B

Ubaid 4


  • Stekelis M. 1972. The Yarmukian Culture. Jerusalem: Magnes Press.
  • Garfinkel Y. 1993. The Yarmukian Culture in Israel. Paleorient, Vol 19, No. 1, pp. 115 – 134.
  • Garfinkel Y. 1999. The Yarmukians, Neolithic Art from Sha'ar Hagolan. Jerusalem: Bible Lands Museum (Exhibition Catalogue).
  • Garfinkel Y. and Miller M. 2002. Sha'ar Hagolan Vol 1. Neolithic Art in Context. Oxford: Oxbow.
  • Garfinkel Y. 2004. The Goddess of Sha'ar Hagolan. Excavations at a Neolithic Site in Israel. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society (Hebrew version published in 2002 as: Sha'ar Hagolan. Neolithic Art in the Jordan Valley. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society).
  • Garfinkel Y. and Ben Shlomo D. In press. Sha'ar Hagolan Vol. 2. Qedem. Jerusalem: Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University.
  • Garfinkel Y., Vered A. and Bar-Yosef O. 2006. The Domestication of Water: The Neolithic Well of Sha'ar Hagolan, Jordan Valley, Israel. Antiquity 80: 686–696.
  • Obaidat Daifallah 1995. "Die neolithische Keramik aus Abu Thawwab/Jordanien". Berlin, ex Oriente.


  1. ^ a b Garfinkel Y. 1993.
  2. ^ a b c d Garfinkel, Y. 1999.
  3. ^ The Neolithic Period 10.200-5000 BC (Jordan) - Jordan Department of Antiquities
  4. ^ Kempinski, A.; Marder, O.; Prausnitz, M.W.; Khalaily, H.M.; Bankirer, R.Y. (2002). "7". In Scheftelowitz, N.; Oren, R. (eds.). Tel Kabri: The 1986-1993 Excavations Seasons. Tel Aviv: Emery and Claire Yass Publications in Archaeology. p. 305. ISBN 965-266-015-9.
  5. ^ Liverani, Mario (2013). The Ancient Near East: History, Society and Economy. Routledge. p. 13, Table 1.1 "Chronology of the Ancient Near East". ISBN 9781134750917.
  6. ^ a b Shukurov, Anvar; Sarson, Graeme R.; Gangal, Kavita (7 May 2014). "The Near-Eastern Roots of the Neolithic in South Asia". PLOS ONE. 9 (5): 1-20 and Appendix S1. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0095714. ISSN 1932-6203.
  7. ^ Bar-Yosef, Ofer; Arpin, Trina; Pan, Yan; Cohen, David; Goldberg, Paul; Zhang, Chi; Wu, Xiaohong (29 June 2012). "Early Pottery at 20,000 Years Ago in Xianrendong Cave, China". Science. 336 (6089): 1696–1700. doi:10.1126/science.1218643. ISSN 0036-8075.
  8. ^ Thorpe, I. J. (2003). The Origins of Agriculture in Europe. Routledge. p. 14. ISBN 9781134620104.
  9. ^ Price, T. Douglas (2000). Europe's First Farmers. Cambridge University Press. p. 3. ISBN 9780521665728.
  10. ^ Jr, William H. Stiebing; Helft, Susan N. (2017). Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture. Routledge. p. 25. ISBN 9781134880836.